- KurdishMedia.com - By Kameel Ahmady
A message to Mr Hrant Dink mourners: Kurdish people are eager for reconciliation and peaceful respect between ethnicities
It was with sadness that I heard last week of the death of Hrant Dink, who worked courageously and tirelessly for a Turkey where understanding and acceptance of diverse cultures, and open dialogue between ethnicities would triumph, instead of the intractability from many sides which currently reigns.
Later that week, I was also saddened to read some articles on websites, statements which for me so missed the point of Hrant’s life and work. I refer to those that were tinged with an anger and hatred that seemed to reflect this intractability and betray movement toward honest and respectful dialogue, both between ethnic groups and with the state. These were marked by the kind of chauvinism which we see all too often in (ethnic) nationalist ideologies; focussing on Kurdish suffering, they do little to empathize with the plight of Armenians. In conclusion, one such article invited us to view grisly images, which, though tragically honest in their depiction of the brutality of the Turkish state, were out of place in the context of a memorial to one man’s life.
This week at the funeral of Mr. Dink, mourners, in the thousands, poured into Istanbul’s streets, carrying placards which read “We are all Armenians now”. Even this was critiqued in mocking tones. Some have cynically raised the question that it is not reasonable for Turks to now be claiming kinship with Armenians, since their very ancestors participated in the genocide of 1915. However, let us not question or condemn this act out of turn. Cannot people admit to their past transgressions, and does this not display a will for future peace? I am sure that it is not necessary to remind my Kurdish friends that there were some of our people who participated in the slaughter of their Armenian neighbours perpetrated by the Ottoman state, just as there were many Kurds who fought to protect and save Armenians, hiding them in their homes.
Reconciliation calls for honesty, and a real will to respect the memory and experience of others; to put aside hatreds, however justified; to acknowledge that we all have elements of good and bad. The symbolic power of this gesture – “We are all Armenians” – a gesture of openness, and yes, even empathy, must not be underestimated. Indeed, this sort of identification with ‘the other’ may represent the greatest hope we have seen for a long time in the battle to overcome inter-ethnic tensions in Turkey. The Turkish state has been accused of making hasty and false remarks of condolence which exploit the death of Mr. Dink; I think such statements are no less guilty of this charge.
While I try to understand and even empathize with life experience in which violence and oppression lead to such rage, I cannot see it as justified in this context. Some of us have tried, and should continue to reaffirm our commitment to working with our friends in the struggle for democracy and human rights of Kurdish people; this includes a responsibility to be honest, to give a viewpoint which is not entrenched in ideology, but in ideals. We should challenge some of our extreme point of views to bring about change through openness and goodwill.
Will such statements help to promote the spirit of respect and communication that Mr. Dink advocated, often alienating him from even many fellow Armenians? My fear is that they will have the opposite effect, and indeed might easily be dismissed by detractors as just so much fanatical ranting.
Worse still, they degrade the memory of Hrant Dink and his achievements, by flying in the face of all he worked for. Hrant Dink lived his life and pursued his work with a sense of goodwill and openness towards all, including those who had been responsible for the attempted extermination of his people. Surely we can honour his memory by continuing in this spirit, and in offering the same to our perceived adversaries.
Let us show the world that the Kurdish people are eager for such reconciliation and peaceful respect between ethnicities. Let us embrace the legacy that he left for us.
Kameel maintains a website at: www.kameelahmady.com